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Est: $80,000 USD - $120,000 USD
Sotheby'sJune 06, 2013New York, NY, US

Item Overview


PROPERTY SOLD BY THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO BADAJOZ (?) CIRCA 1520-1586 (?) PIET oil on panel 26 3/16 by 19 1/8 in.; 66.5 by 48.5 cm.

Artist or Maker


San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Old Master Spanish Paintings,1933 (no cat.); Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of a Century of Progress, Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture Lent from American Museums, 1 June - 1 November 1933, no. 180; Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum, Exhibition of Spanish Painting, 4 - 31 October 1935, no. 45; Saint Paul, Minnesota, Saint Paul Art Center, The Age of Belief: an exhibition of religious art from the Harding Museum Collections,1966–67, no. 2.


J. A. Gaya Nuño, La pintura española fuera de España, Madrid 1958, p. 238, cat. no. 1824 (as by Morales); I. Bäcksbacka, Luis de Morales, trans. L.-I. Ringbom, Helsinki 1962, p. 197, cat. no. 60 (listed under studio works and copies); R.G. Mann in M. Wolff et al., Northern European and Spanish Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago 2008, pp. 95-99, reproduced.


Dr. John E. Stillwell, New York, by 1927; His sale, New York, Anderson Galleries, 1-3 December 1927, lot 480, to Harding for $2,200; George F. Harding, Jr. (d. 1939), Chicago; Bequeathed to the George F. Harding Museum, Chicago; Offered for sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 2 December 1976, lot 31, withdrawn; Ownership transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1982; Accessioned 1983 (George F. Harding Collection, Acc.no. 1983.371).


This Pietà is a fine example of Morales’s devotional images of the grieving Virgin Mary for which he was so justly famous. In his Arte de la pintura, the artist and writer Francesco Pacheco (1564-1644) wrote that Morales’s depictions of this subject were so poignant that they “could move stones to devotion."1 The Virgin gently cradles the dead Christ in her arms, gazing down at him mournfully. Christ is painted in ashen hues, with the whites of his upturned eyes visible through slightly open eyes. Though he no longer wears the crown of thorns, blood still drips from the wounds on his forehead. The starkness of the composition, with the two figures dominating the picture plane, creates a powerful image and one that Morales painted in numerous variations to meet the demands of his clientele. Morales’s style reflects an awareness of both the Northern and Italian schools, with his use of Leonardesque sfumato effects and a composition based on Netherlandish prototypes. The depictions of the Pietà by Morales, his workshop and followers are most often in half-length format. These differ in the direction of the composition, with Christ to the left of the Virgin in some examples, and in the way in which the Virgin holds the dead body of her son, often supporting his head in one of her hands. In the present example, the placement of the Virgin’s hands is distinctive, with her right hand resting on Christ’s shoulder while the left one extends down and rests on his chest.2 Stylistically, the Art Institute panel appears to fit in with works produced late in Morales’s career, circa 1578-1585. The intense expressiveness achieved by omitting any extraneous elements is comparable to that of other such late works as Ecce Homo (Gonzalo Albarrán, Badojoz) and Saint Jerome (Badajoz Cathedral). While, in comparison to Morales middle years, the handling of the anatomy is more simplified, the picture has lost none of its spiritual impact.3 1. See R.G. Mann, in M. Wolff, ed., Northern European and Spanish Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 97 and p. 99, note 8. 2. The only other recorded version with this same positioning of the Virgin’s hands is one considered to be from the Workshop of Morales in the Camporeal collection, Madrid; see M. Wolff, ed., op.cit., p. 98, reproduced fig. 2. 3. See R.G. Mann, in M. Wolff, ed., op.cit., p. 99.

Auction Details

Old Master Paintings

June 06, 2013, 12:00 AM EST

1334 York Avenue, New York, NY, 10021, US